In 1929 a yacht called ‘Jamaica’ travelled the whole length of the coast of Cuba. People that saw it could not know that thanks to the person who was in that yacht the first experiment about Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion took place.
Many times, we think that renewable energies are something new, even futuristic. However, some renewable energies, like OTEC, are known since a long time ago, and, what is more, they were investigated and applied with relative success in the first years of XX siècle. One person who did it was Georges Claude. In my last post I just wrote a line about him. Nevertheless, his great achievement deserves to be known and appreciated.
Georges Claude was a French scientific and engineer, disciple of Jacques-Arsène d’Arsonval, the first physician who theorized about the possibilities to exploit the Ocean Thermal Energy.
In 1926 Claude designed an open-cycle system to obtain electricity from Ocean Thermal Energy. In this system, as Jon wrote in his last post, seawater evaporates at low temperatures if it is in a vacuum. In Claude’s open-cycle, it evaporated at less than 27ºC.
After investigating the different characteristics of the water of the Cuban coastline, Georges Claude, together with his partner Paul Boucherot, decided Matanzas bay for his experiment. The depth was 700m. It started with the difficult collocation of a long tube to take the cold deep sea water. The final experiment was done on the 6th of October of 1930. He foresaw he could achieve 40 kW, and use 13 kW of them to pump the cold water. However, finally 22 kW were obtained, because the temperature difference was not as Claude initially expected. All in all, the experiment gave enough energy to illuminate 30 light bulbs (15 kW, approximately). Some people argued that an auxiliary motor was necessary for the activation of the plant, but we have to consider the incipient and experimental character of the investigation.
Georges Claude had many projects and continued investigating. He tried to open a power plant of 25000 kW in another place of Cuba to stimulate Cuban industry, even providing electricity to some southern states of the United States. However, the discovery of new oil wells diverted the attention from it. Also, eleven days after it started, a hurricane destroyed the OTEC plant of Matanzas. But the precedent was established…
There are three very interesting documents about this unknown event, which I have consulted:
One is the lecture that Georges Claude read the 9th October of 1930 in the Academy of Medical, Physical and Natural Sciences of Havana about the experiment (in Spanish).
The second one is an abstract about it (in Spanish).
The third one is a press article of the time (in English).
Experiments like that show us the history of renewable energies, the efforts made in its development and the long trajectory of obtaining electricity from the sea.